|After a very brief night in Uganda, we discovered that one of us did not have the yellow immunization card, as we checked in with RwandAir at 6:30 AM. How could we possibly resolve this? After an hour -- and a fee -- we were allowed to board the plane. By this time, we expected more obstacles, but kept in mind that, so far, nothing had been able to stop us.
The challenges varied. Jeremy averaged 2-3 hours of sleep per night and sometimes did not feel well, despite having a team physician.
Seeing sick people in the free clinics, Eric picked up a respiratory sickness that he couldn't shake. He came hoping for an opportunity for annual medical and teaching ministry in S. Sudan. Despite many inquiries and help from our coworkers in Juba, nothing developed.
We had one large suitcase full of meds, and assorted other meds with us from the USA and Kampala.
I had been dreading the “6 hours, 6 aspirins” road trip between Juba and Torit, but mercifully we learned of a better road and had more comfortable vehicles!
We went to the Torit prison, but were given only 30 minutes to speak to the men and women on our first visit. Dawn distributed gift bags of toiletries and a scarf to the women separately, and was able to share the Good News. Ellen Fox, former team member who has worked for the last five years in the Lopit mountains, joined us in prison ministry and at meals. Despite being told that we would have no time for ministry the next day, Jeremy was allowed to minister to the men, and Dawn and Ellen to the women, for an hour!
Lack of a chapel building on the compound had been a burden since my last visit years ago. Now they have the beginnings of one. It needs a low wall around the space to accommodate the 200 or so prisoners during the rainy season. The block machine crew made 4,000 blocks in December, and Patrick Oting will arrange for the block wall to be built. We provided funds for forty Bibles (English was requested) and Ellen and Patrick will continue the ministry there.
Meanwhile, although getting a warm welcome from the state Minister of Health, and having a tour of Torit Civil Hospital, Eric could not arrange to meet the only surgeon at the hospital (and in the entire state) whom he would assist as anesthesiologist. The night before returning to Juba, Eric's sickness prompted him to visit a clinic for lab tests . There he met the very Arabic surgeon he couldn’t see that day. Eric was enthusiastically encouraged to return and was offered a hospital office! Even sickness worked into God’s plan.
The trip back included a 90-minute delay at the border patrol office in Atlanta (the officer had no idea why Jeremy had been flagged, and we barely made our shuttle); then we were home! The next day Dawn experienced sharp abdominal pain. Tests revealed that her appendix had grown to the size of a cucumber over perhaps 6 months. Even picking up a child could have ruptured it. I reflected on Dawn's desire to “pull her weight” and her heavy bags that she would heft if we didn't get to it in time. Her life was spared—she is recovering well.
As I write, the government and rebels are battling over oil facilities in the north of the country. Many more civilians are being displaced over the renewed fighting. The people, including young children, are targets of heinous crimes by both government and rebel forces, as reported by media. Our work is in the far south, so not directly affected at this point, but every facet of the nation is fragile. Pray for God to change leaders and to protect women and children.
Through reading Worlds of Power (Ellis and Ter Haar) and learning about animism this trip, Christians attending said that 75% of their politicians try to derive power from the spirit world to increase their political power base. Some politicians openly have spirit ceremonies. The outcome of such contact and submission is the chaos, corruption, and destruction exhibited today. A strong church is desperately needed in S. Sudan. RMNI plans to return in 2016